Nick and Mike are back at discussing the start of the World Series of Poker, the evolving situation with US shared liquidity for online poker, the changing landscape of PokerStars ambassadors including the departure of Daniel Negreanu, and recent overlays in the world of online poker tournaments.


Full Transcript

Mike: Hello and welcome everybody to the 17th edition of the Pokerfuse podcast. It is June 6, 2019. I am your host, Michael Gentile along with my co-host, Nick Jones. Nick, how is it going this week?

Nick: It is going very, very good indeed this week, Mike. Very good indeed. I don’t know if you’ve heard that there’s a poker tournament, poker series going on in Nevada and in Las Vegas.

Mike: Yes I heard something about this big festival that was taking place but I’m not out there. It’s out of my purview a bit.

Nick: Yes, it’s not on my radar too, and if I go on Twitter, I see nobody talking about it. I assume it’s not a big deal whatsoever.

Mike: Yes, it’s probably very low key but it’s Vegas. People tend to make a bigger deal out of things then they may otherwise.

Nick: Yes. We’ve been away for a couple of weeks. I was on holiday last week. We’ve got a lot to catch up on. We will be touching on the World Series of Poker. We’re not going to entirely pretend it doesn’t exist in our world. On top of that, we’ve got a bunch of other stuff. We’re going to have to get through.

Mike: Yes, we have a few big topics. We’ll probably take deeper dive this week into some of those bigger topics because they do cover maybe some smaller topics. We also had a special edition of the podcast that went out earlier this week. That was an interview with David Sklansky on his new book which is The Theory of Poker Applied to No-Limit.

Nick: It was enjoyable listening to the previous podcast as a tourist. As a listener being on holiday seeing it pop up into my feed and giving it a listen. If you haven’t checked out, I think till I came out on like Monday maybe so over the weekend. If you haven’t seen it yet, do go and give it a listen and let us know what you think about that format. We don’t want to replace it the weekly ones that we might do but like is an extra special edition. That’s a nice thing you’d like to hear. We can certainly do more.

Mike: Yes that’s a good topic for people to provide feedback to us on. That being said, we should probably jump right in.

Nick: Let’s dive in.

WSOP starts and New Jersey players will get to play all online bracelet events

Mike: As we stated earlier, the World Series of Poker has kicked off in Las Vegas. As part of the celebration of their 50th anniversary, they have a special tournament, brace tournament, that they’re running called The Big 50. It’s a $500 buying, correct?

Nick: Yes that’s a $500 buying, broken all the records. Every record of everything. It’s the largest turnout for WCP event and large center for any live poker event ever. 28,371 total entries paid $500 to play in The Big 50.

Mike: Wow. The previous record holder was the Colossus, right?

Nick: Yes, the Colossus in 2015 so its debut. That was also $500, I think 565 with the rake. That got something like 22,000 entries. It’s a decent clip above that. The stick with this one is that your first entry is rake free. Your whole $500 goes towards the price for only secondary entries and therefore day one flights and you could enter all four-day flights if you busted out each day. Only then do you do pay the rake. Winning big draw for players we’ve seen the Colossus’ seen dwindling participation since its debut. This has just kicked it right back up again setting on new records. By the sounds of things, it got pretty chaotic in the Rio trying to get all these players into it.

Mike: Well, from what I’ve heard, there wasn’t any big major ordeal which is really a testament to the organizers WSOP pulling that off. 20,000 people in a matter of four days is no easy feat.

Nick: Yes. People are complaining a lot about queues. There’s a lot of queuing going on to get your entry. The slight cynic in me is not that much more than 22,000. I would think they would have anticipated that. They got 20,000 when they first introduced this event. This is the 50th anniversary. It’s rake free. It got quite a lot of buzz ahead of time. I don’t know, they should have kind of— they apparently they had to take over some bowling alleys and put tables in there. They had to jiggle the schedule up and it’s quite a confusing structure. Maybe this is common for these big events but they have— every starting flight has its own day two. There’s day 1A to day 2A, day 1B to day 2B.

Day 1B starts before the first flight of other day ones have started. You’re playing your day two and you will cross the bubble because the top 15% get paid out. If you survive day two, you’re definitely in the money, you just don’t know for how much money and you don’t know when you cross that bubble because the other flights haven’t started, you don’t even know how many people are going to be ultimately playing in this tournament. I think the full flight on day one they got nearly 10,000 people. It’s a huge success somewhat, I don’t know.

The WC perhaps likes this kind of, “Oh, say okay because we’re just flooded with so many people and juggling and juggling, it’s all good.” It’s all part of the show I imagine but it’s been difficult even getting the numbers. We wrote the story up yesterday or the day before and all the day one flights are complete but we still couldn’t get the hem update the official numbers for the prize pool or the number of entries yet. Through us being outside in Nevada, it’s been a little tricky to keep on top of it but fantastic buzz I’m sure in the rear at the moment.

Mike: Yes, I think there’s something to what you just said. I think having the existence of chaos serves to be like a blanket excuse if you will or you can hide a lot of misaligned things by cultivating that kind of chaos. It also I think builds excitement. When people are in the midst of chaos, it helps things feel different. It’s got its uses.

Nick: We know now the price fall is 13.5 million dollars but the guarantee was 5 million. It’s almost triple that. Again, they could have made the guarantee 10 million I think being pretty safe but 13.5 million. The first place prize was guaranteed at one million and it’s now 1.1 million. I guess they just paying a lot deeper or spreading out a little more. They’re down to 127 players. I don’t know if day 3 is complete and are going into— or day three is underway, I don’t know. I have no idea mate. Last time I noticed they didn’t know if there was going to be a day five or not that might come on Friday. It’s happening.

Mike: Another big tournament that maybe not as big, definitely not as big, but significant was the very first outline bracelet event for the WSOP-

Nick: Has that happened already? Has it?

Mike: It has. Yes. Wow, I can see the headlines in my mind but I can’t tell you who won it. It was someone that had a very interesting online marker. Something similar to luckyChewy’s name. Wow, I don’t know. I’m drawing a blank. Do you know LuckyChewy’s name?

Nick: His actual real name?

Mike: His screen name. LuckyChewy’s screen name.

Nick: It’s LuckyChewy. I don’t think LuckyChewy is his actual name.

Mike: All right. I’m mixing things up. Anyway, I remember that the person that won it did have a twist on a very famous online poker player’s name.

Nick: Was this the tournament that Hellmuth’s was on the final table of?

Mike: Yes [crosstalk] . He finished what? In fifth place? You know I’m looking it up right now.

Nick: Yes. You got to really.

Mike: At this point, I made too big of a deal out of it not to.

Nick: Because his real surname is Lichten…

Mike: Yes, Andrew. Right. Let’s see, WSOP live updates and we can look at the bracelet event which was number four. I’m sorry, number seven. The winner is, oh yes. His online screen name is Lucky Spuey one.

Nick: Nice, I like that.

Mike: All right. His real name is Yong Huang. I hope I’m pronouncing that correctly and he took down $165,263 for the win.

Nick: How many online bracelet events are there going to be? There’s still..

Mike: Right. There’s nine scheduled, but the big news is that the players in New Jersey barring any unforeseen circumstances are going to be eligible to play in all of them which is a bit of a departure from what was previously the case being that there was the DOJ had this enforcement deadline that was to come in to effect June 14th and if that were to be enforced would have limited New Jersey players to playing only in the first two online events.

Nick: Yes so this is— listeners will be familiar with this topic we’ve talked about it that this deadline is coming up, the WSOP had said that they didn’t know whether New Jersey players would be able to play in bracelet events after the second one all TBD. Something happened this week, which we’ll touch on in a minute, but that prompted the WSOP or we believe it prompted they didn’t directly say so, but ultimately decided that they will allow New Jersey players, they will leave the player pool connected we’re assuming and our New Jersey players to play all these bracelet events going past this DOJ deadline but we should probably first dig into why we think they were prompted to make this decision and it was pretty big news.

Mike: Yes so there was a court case, listeners to this podcast will have previous knowledge of this, but there was a court case where the New Jersey lottery commission was challenging the Department of Justice’s re-interpretation of the Wire Act that was released earlier this year because they were aware that full enforcement of that opinion could have negative impacts on their multi-state lottery operations.

Nick: Yes and ultimately the judge presiding over the case sided with New Hampshire lottery commission and said that the government’s Department of Justice or sorry the OLC, what does that stand for?

Mike: That’s the Office of Legal Counsel, that’s like the lawyers for the Department of Justice that advise them.

Nick: Their re-interpretation from December 2018 was bunk effectively and their initial interpretation eight years ago which said that the Wire Act only pertains to sport betting is the one that makes the most logical sense, the most logical interpretation of what is a 50 year old statute and ultimately paved the way for New Hampshire to continue their operations. What we understand is everywhere where they do in the United States which is across dozens of states in the US, the judge however did choose not to rule on whether his ruling had wider implications beyond that.

Mike: Yes and so that’s the really big piece is this ruling only applies to New Hampshire lottery commission and their vendor. However, the WSOP is looking at this as potential precedent for a challenge, I’m assuming because it was this event that we did— we’d reached out after the judgment came down and that’s when we got a different take from the WSOP. Previously it was, we’re going to see how things shake out, now it has been barring any unforeseen circumstances the bracelet events and also the online championship series will be open to New Jersey players.

Nick: When this decision came down there was quite a divided opinion online from different people covering this topic on how big of a deal it is. Obviously, it’s ultimately just one judge’s decision and it directly only impacts the plaintiff in the case which is New Hampshire and the company that they work with to offer their Powerball and other lottery ticket sales that they have online.

However, in addition, there’s a good chance that this will be appealed by the Department of Justice in a high court case. There are people saying that in the next court that they go to— there are some decisions have already been made to demonstrate that they’ll probably take the more restrictive view that the Wire Act only pertains to sports betting. As you say, it puts something on the box, on the books sorry, clearly says that a judge in what is a very reasoned and easy to read decision by the way. It’s actually quite interesting to read how he came to his decision that clearly says that their December 2018 decision was farcical ultimately that’s my end word but it seemed extremely clear cut to my reading.

Mike: Yes so from what I read, and I did not read the entire decision that he handed down, he took into consideration the context of the environment that was happening, everything that was going on at the time that this law was passed to try and determine if it was limited to sports betting or if it was more broadly to be interpreted as including all type of gambling facilities and activities.

Nick: Not get into it in too much detail, but I don’t think, to me I found this quite a fascinating debate and ultimately, the Wire Act 1961, it has this one specific clause in it, one paragraph of text, where it says, “Betting and wagering,” and it says it four times. In the second of the four, it includes a modifiee to the term “betting and wagering “ where it says betting and wagering in sporting events and contests.

That part, the second clause is clearly limited to just sports betting, but the question is, are the other betting wagering phrases in that sentence also modified by the sports betting and contest section? Then obviously the government argues that, okay, that’s ambiguous, but you can’t just take a modifier in a sentence and play it backwards and forwards. Therefore the the purest reading is that they don’t. Then the New Hampshire position is like, Oh, no, absolutely from a grammatical from a syntactical point of view, you absolutely do take it both ways.

Also, what the judge said, from my reading of it, was, it’s ambiguous. It’s ultimately ambiguous. You can read it both ways. What we have to do is we have to look at this law and go where the lawmakers trying to just restrict sports betting and having it wider. He said, “It’s quite unlikely that lawmakers would want to restrict one sub clause of a sentence for sports betting, but leave the rest of it to wider implications. It’s very unlikely that that’s what they wanted to do.”

He gave a lot of good reasons why like for example, they said at the time, this is to restrict sports betting and half dozen other very good reasons why it’s very clearly that there are talking about sports betting. To me as a layman reading it, it seems extremely clear cut and I can’t see how a judge would come to any other decision. Of course these things are appealed through dozens of different courts and different judges see things in different ways and blah, blah, blah. It’s a fascinating development and one that clearly the WSOP Caesars have.

They’ve now received legal advice to say that you can probably push past this deadline and you have very good kind of a legal defense. Why? Because these interpretations aren’t themselves legally binding, as I understand it. It’s just the Department of Justice, new position on an existing law. They said that, oh, yes, up until this new decision, you will find that now you’re not, but the law itself is unchanged, that text from 1961 is still exactly as it was before.

Mike: Right. Their opinion is just a signal to how they plan to enforce that law. Now that’s not to say that they couldn’t go in and and start making arrests, for example, but that then would go to court, and that’s where a judge’s decision would be rendered. I don’t see that happening. That would be quite out of the box. They are expected to appeal this decision. From everything I understand the paperwork for that appeal should be within the next 30 days. We’ll know right away if that is the case, and if that’s going to happen, but the actual appeal process could stretch out for for quite a long time.

Nick: Yes. It was very interesting to me when I was just reading this, is if the New Hampshire lottery commission brought this case to say, “Hey, you and your interpretation, it’s basically saying what we’re doing is illegal. Judge can you decide whether that’s the case or not.” The judge saying, “Oh, no … “ What’s interesting is the government, the Department of Justice needs to say like, “Oh, you shouldn’t— We’re not going to go after the lotteries. That’s completely fine.” You don’t need to make a ruling on this? The judge said, that is absolute rubbish out. You’re going to. It just made me think whether the WSOP could seek a similar judgment. I mean that the arguments that the lottery commission put forward would be the exactly the same, in my mind is what an online poker operator would do.

Mike: Right. I’m no attorney, but I will be surprised if WSOP Caesars or American poker network. All of the online poker operators don’t just snap file the same lawsuit that the New Hampshire lottery commission did. It seems like that would be a way for them to increase their safety, if you will, or their position to be able to more comfortably offer these online events across state lines.

Nick: That actually touches on a final piece of the story which is the GVC owner of the partypoker brand received their license for interactive gaming in the state of Nevada, which I think happened just after our last podcast. I don’t think we’ve discussed this, but an interactive game licensed in Nevada is for online poker. That’s all you can do in Nevada. That’s GVC /partypoker receiving a license. Now he said at the time, that might just be kind of preparatory, that it would be surprising perhaps if they launch online poker just in Nevada because it would segregate with this wire, I think. That landscape is changed now.

Mike: Right. It’s going to continue to change because we have Pennsylvania getting ready to come online. We have West Virginia who has approved online poker. These new states, as they’re coming on, it would be interesting to see if the state regulators give the green light to share liquidity, and what’s the operator do from their standpoint as well because technically I don’t know if regulators would be violating the law by giving permission because they’re not actually performing the act of facilitating gaming across state lines. Maybe just the operators there that are at risk, but that’s just layman’s opinion. It will be interesting to see how this whole thing starts playing out.

We’ve got Pennsylvania coming online this summer, and the population in that state is such that we expect all of the online poker operators that are already currently in the US to be participating in that market. When you start adding in other player pools such as Nevada, such as East West Virginia, it has the potential to get significant quickly.

Daniel Negreanu and PokerStars part ways and what that means for the future of PokerStars ambassadors

Nick: We got unlucky. Again, two weeks just after we have recorded the podcast. I think historically we’ve been very lucky like big news happens just before we’ve recorded in a few times. It’s happened at the time we recorded. Very unlucky. Two weeks ago, I think within an hour of us finishing recording, the news that Daniel Negreanu had left PokerStars as an ambassador was released. I think by Daniel on twitter was how the news first came out.

Mike: I guess it was unexpected. Typically, we’ve seen a lot of these ambassadors changes happening at the beginning of the year. This one was mid-year and right after Daniel’s wedding. It had to feel like there was more to this one than just, “Hey, the contract is up, and we couldn’t come to an agreement.”

Nick: I don’t think you can understate just how big of a deal this is. He’s obviously one of the most recognizable poker players around. This is the largest. He has been an ambassador for, I don’t know how many years it was-

Mike: 12 I think.

Nick: Yes. It was 12 years. He would have been paid very handsomely for that ambassadorship. He has been an extremely outspoken supporter of PokerStars. He is extremely vocal on social media. He does vlog on YouTube. He’s on a weekly podcast. He guess deep into the thick of it in the poker’s spots. Defense PokerStars regularly, with the decisions that they make, they are frequently unpopular with the kind of the high stakes, high volume crowd, and he is also playing over the glove tournaments. His motive in PokerStars decision to part ways with him. I think is extremely telling about the direction the company has taken.

Mike: He is by far the most visible poker player in the world. I don’t think anyone even comes close, even Phil Hellmuth, for all of the self-promoting that he does, is not doing anything nearer what Negreanu is doing in total.

Nick: Negreanu also does have an online poker experience. He doesn’t play a lot now. He spends a lot of time in Las Vegas, but he is Canadian, I think. He still maintains his residence there. I don’t think he’s playing online for quite a while, but he has done it in the last couple of years. He’s done things in the past. He’s tried to take on the 200, 400 games on PokerStars was a big thing a couple of years ago. He bridges that, and he’s intimately familiar with the online product. That’s the other thing. You might not agree with his opinions but he talks about high volume players. He talks about rewards program. He understands-

Mike: He’s educated.

Nick: He’s extremely educated on the topic. His record on the live scene, he’s second to none really. I think he’s only just recently lost the number one on the all-time money list and live tournament earnings like—

Mike: To who? Do you know?

Nick: I would have done two weeks ago.

Mike: To Justin Bonomo.

Nick: Is it Justin Bonomo? I was going to say that. 100%, I was going to say that. You can’t understate how big a deal it is. Obviously, with these things when people part ways you never really know what goes on behind the scenes. It could in theory, just be Daniel saying he doesn’t want to continue doing this anymore. It could be that the two went into contract negotiations and one party wanted more than the other in terms of output or in terms of money. Having listened to Negreanu on the DAT Poker Podcast, it left me no minds about basically, PokerStars ended the contract themselves.

Mike: Really? I haven’t listened to that episode as of now. Do tell, though, what’s [crosstalk] impression?

Nick: He didn’t say that explicitly at all. The conversation immediately just centered around PokerStars making changes to their business, and it being a business decision. No one posed him the question, “Have you done this because you’ve got something else lined up?” It was very much, “What are you going to do next?” He said, “I’m going to keep my options open and dah, dah, dah.” It wasn’t like, “Yes, I’ve got big news coming next week.” The conversation was just very focused around, “It’s an amicable split dah, dah, dah. Sometimes companies move in different directions and it’s all fine.”

I wonder whether PokerStars said if you want to stay on you have to come to Europe more to do more live stuff here and play online more and we want to use you in that way. He didn’t want to because he started the family. Where he wants to start a family. He just got married. I don’t know. It just fits into what we’ve seen from PokerStars here in terms of really wanting to extract— If they’re spending money, they want to see the return. They want to justify that.

Mike: I think one of the big questions that I have and I’m very interested in your opinion on it is, do you think the events leading up to this parting of ways and the events that I’m speaking of. For example, the podcast spat that happened. Daniel was involved in some very public and vocal bickering back and forth. During the course of such exchanges, I think there was some things that may have not been— Let’s say, that are pushing the envelope when it comes to corporate acceptability type.

Nick: I don’t know. I’d be surprised that that will be the reason. Again, from just a spokesperson point of view, I think it was extremely good for the company. To give somebody the freedom to speak on— Come across honest in vlogs and on podcasts and generally speaking up the company, you have to give them the long leash to sometimes get down into the dirt . T he guy is on the live scene, he’s got strong opinions. He’s always been that way. I’d be surprised it was just a straw broke the camel’s back type scenario. This feels more like a corporate decision.

Again, it’s important to state that this very much Daniel Negreanu had the opportunity to quit on his terms. He was the one who announced it, PokerStars was put and no PR about it whatsoever. Last time I checked, his likeness is still used in the cash game lobby. I imagine he’s been removed from the ambassador thing on the website. All the communication has come only from Daniel. He’s clearly not said the specifics of what went on. This is just purely my speculation here.

Mike: Then let me ask you this. What is the future of the PokerStars ambassadors? Do we see somebody stepping in to take Daniel’s place? Is that just a move that they’re making that is going to be less focused on big names and more distributed in local markets and through sports stars? What do you think?

Nick: I mean, the first question in my mind is who else isn’t safe? If you’d asked me prior to Negreanu’s departure like, “Who’s never going to leave?” I’ll be like, “Daniel won’t obviously because he is PokerStars. Moneymaker won’t obviously because of his story and everything.” Now, I think like, “I don’t know.” Everyone could go. Moneymaker is a very interesting example in the sense that he is PokerStars as much as Daniel is. I don’t need to repeat his story. It’s all PokerStars, but he’s US. How do they really utilize him?

We have very good things about the Moneymaker tool last year and how successful that had been for poker stars. That’s the US market and now apparently, he’s doing a tour in the US and Australia which is unconnected to poker stars. I don’t quite understand it, but he put out something on Twitter promoting a Moneymaker tool which is not poker stars connected. There’s no repeat of the poker stars sponsored Moneymaker tool. He obviously doesn’t play real money online. If they’re using this logic with Daniel saying, we’re not getting our dollars worth. I think Liv Boeree and Igor, is where Igor has a connection with the Russian market, but again, spokespeople in my mind. If they’re using these same equations, I’m not quite sure who does make the cut.

Obviously, the people they signed up are reaching very specific demographics, Twitch streaming, they’ve got a new stable of pros, and then they’re working with just celebrities. Their Indian online poker room is using a big Bollywood star on TV advertising. Interesting they signed up Ramon Colillas in Spain and they’re using his likeness a lot and they’re promoting him a lot. Again, he has a very close connection to the Spanish market. Yes, I don’t know. I think anyone else who’s still on the books who’s US.

Mike: I would be surprised if poker stars and Moneymaker part ways. I have no idea what kind of compensation package Chris is getting and how it compares to Daniel, but I would think that that is a story that’s a narrative that poker stars would want to keep intact. That being said, I was shocked that he seems to be pursuing this life tour without sponsorship for poker stars so maybe that’s an indication that things could be changing with regard to Moneymaker coming soon.

Nick: Yes, you’re absolutely right. It’s absolutely the story that poker stars want to tell and, of course, as you say like, with all these things, we’re talking in descriptives, but ultimately, it’s going to be a monetary decision. Chris Moneymaker might cost a 20th of what Daniel did. In which case, you pop that into this equation and then it’s going to come out very different. As I just went on to the poker stars team crew page and the number one person is Chris Moneymaker and then Liv Boeree and, of course, Jason Somerville.

Again, you would assume Jason Somerville is kind of— I won’t say is completely safe there. It’s a two-way streak here, but you would think he brings so much to the table in terms of the Twitch streaming. Then we have Fatima who’s a really interesting person still have on the books because, obviously, she was originally like a sports star and I don’t think she really has the broad poker appeal and then we have Igor. Then we get into more of the regional stars.

Mike: The one that I look at as being the real— If this person is gone, that signifies the change and that’s Liv Boeree, because she has traditionally all the things that a brand would want in an ambassador, and if she’s gone, that to me signifies that things could be changing drastically with regard to the ambassador program over poker stars. I can see that while she has the ability to increase her role there, that hasn’t seemed to have been the case recently. That might be a little bit of a hint as to the future direction, but she’s got life, she can play online, she’s highly Europe focused which whereas a lot of where poker stars business is. She speaks English so she also has appeal to the US market. She ticks a lot of boxes as far as an ambassador goes but whether or not they are going to start promoting her as— or more than they have. I think that’s the thing I’m going to be looking out for.

Nick: I think Daniel N egreanu’s is in a very position. It’s the thing. With the US market hopefully growing in the next couple of years, he’s extremely sought after. His reach online on social media is unprecedented, really. He could get into Twitch streaming for He could get in. He’s got a lot of opportunity ahead, I would think.

Mike: All right. Why hasn’t Party pounced? That’s another big question that I have. They have been very aggressive with pursuing former poker stars ambassadors or even courting the current ones and bringing them over. This is a big one. He seems to have the most name recognition of any poker player. Is it just a money thing?

Nick: Yes. Maybe because his focuses is outside GVC’s primary markets.

Mike: He’s so big. It just takes time to work out that deal. I don’t know.

Nick: I guess they’ve been working against Daniel is just that he’s been so outspoken on certain topics that you if you go to the poker room that has quite different strategy to execution you can’t all of a sudden have him switching and saying, “Let’s recognize.” It’s a fascinating story. One that we probably won’t get much more detail on. This speculation is probably the best we’re going to get to.

Mike: Very interesting times in the world of poker ambassadors.

Overlays in the Sunday Million and KO Series

There was a significant event that happened that took place last Sunday in the poker star Sunday million. For the first time, it failed to meet its guarantees since they implemented the new $109 re-buy.

Nick: Yes, the listeners will remember I think as our very first episode, we talked about the news when they introduced this 109 levels so they have the Sunday millionaires poker stars big. Poker online and poker tournament in history has been going for over a decade to say. They change it to 109 buying and kept the—

Mike: Yes buying and I said re-buy earlier.

Nick: Kept the guaranteed $1 million. They needed 10,000 people to sent up. When it first started, the prize pool was like 1.5 million. Since then it has declined with some exceptional kind of one-off tournament’s specials that they did decline pretty much week over week to the point that on Sunday, we saw its first ever overlay. It was quite significant one. They attracted just under 9000 players, they were more than 1000 entries short of covering. An overlay of over $100,000.

That loan is dropping the ocean of poker stars money in it from the tournament themselves, they made 80,000. The cost is irrelevant, but the implication thereof the dwindling, interested this spine is worth a pause, if nothing less and it raises the question of where the poker star makes changes this going into the summer.

Mike: Looking at the graph that we have over in poker industry Pro, the 10% dip underneath their required number of players to make their guarantee is quite significant. When looking back over the course of time. I have an idea as to why. I’m curious if you may have some thoughts on why this past Sunday was more significant in terms of a decline than it has been in previous weeks.

Nick: Go on. True.

Mike: I think that it’s probably related to people traveling to the World Series of Poker.

Nick: I thought you’re going to say that. Is it that many people? We’re talking about like 10,000 people by how many people from your champion versus poker at the start to play the big 50. To get 10, 000 entries as well you need players is only like seven and a half thousand that they need. There was some big things obviously like they just finished scoop. Scoop was hugely successful and $100 million was paid out in prize money. That means players spend well over 100 million dollars collectively playing this two or maybe three-week tournament series.

Obviously, that happens every year. The Sunday meeting after that can often see lower participation. We have seen that in the past. I think we do have all the details on our pro article but I think in like 2015 or 2016 it has happened for the one straight after school and has seen lower turnout. Also, we just going into the summer periods. It started in January which is the absolute peak of the seasonal period for online poker. As we go into spring and summer we see less turn out numbers do decline.

Obviously, poker stars would have hoped that it declined, but still stayed above the guarantee, but these are definite factors. I don’t believe that people coming for the WSOP can really make a blip. I could be wrong.

Mike: If we’re talking about only a player pool of, say, seven to 8000 people, and we’re talking about a 10% decrease, I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibilities. The smaller the potential player pool is for this tournament, the more likely it is to be impacted by a particular event.

Nick: Yes. Overlays are significant in the sense that smart players realize whether there’s going to be an overlay and then join, because if there’s going to be attempt to an overlay, you’re getting a big discount on your entry. You’re basically paying no break, I suppose in one sense. Quite often, what you’ll see is a very small overlay because a lot of people will join, or they’re really interested busted out with a password planning to and you think of the 109 level it’s a lower price point, more people might be more frivolous and be, “it’s going to allow jump in. Ten percent is a lot of people deciding not to do that or not being aware that that was going to happen.

Despite all these caveats that we got, it was scoop, there is a WSOP, it is summer. Two of those factors stretch on for the next six weeks. The question is— and the summer gets quieter and quieter until August, might be around September, something like that, we will see less people. PokerStars has to either decide whether they are going to suck it up, maybe put more promotion into it, maybe run more satellites with guaranteed tickets, and maybe make a PR thing out of the overlay. Because economically, we have seen nothing. This is our own numbers, and research is put this together. We’ve seen nothing from PokerStars in that. Because I don’t think we’re going to be happy with that overlay week on week.

Mike: Right. We’ve seen PartyPoker also have a significant overlay. They took that opportunity to use it as a marketing tool. Or at least, I remember Rob Young, saying that that was something they’d like to do.

Nick: That’s interesting. I didn’t think they did do that. In fact, again, almost referring to their as they just ran KS series, which ran in tandem with PartyPoker scoop. They had a very ambitious $30 million guarantee which they’ve done series that big before, but for a bounty only tournament series running quite soon after the last power fest, that seemed quite ambitious. Indeed, they did suffer over a million dollars of overlays total over the course of the series.

That’s not a small chunk of change. As I understand, this is the analysis done by us. I haven’t seen anything from PartyPoker promoting the fact that they overlayed this much. We have heard from probably in the past that they see overlays as a marketing tool. What did Rob say on the Poker?

Mike: Maybe I’m confusing some of my PartyPoker heads out here. I’m reading directly from the Pokerfuse article that Anuj had authored. He quotes an interview with Poker industry pro, Tom waters, a couple of years back saying that— and Rob Young as well, that Rob Young said recently, “I never mind overlaying because it’s putting money into the customers pockets.” In reality, 50% of the money that you put back into your customers pockets ends up back in the pockets of the operator.

Nick: Yes. That’s so true. Sure. Say, maybe a million dollars. Perhaps is maybe too much money to be putting into your customers pockets, but it was. Obviously, PartyPoker is not the only one that can see. PartyPoker is not going to shy away from these massive tournament’s that they run regardless of what happens.

Mike: Yes. Tom Waters in the interview with pro a couple of years back had said that he views them as a marketing expense. It’s interesting to note though that that being the case, that there was no official PR, and maybe that they’re saving that for— I’m not sure. It was, in PartyPoker situation, you can say that for the next Sunday million, but now that the chaos series is over, there’s really no way to market that for future events. It doesn’t seem, anyway.

Nick: The way I guess the way to do is whilst the series is running, you say, “Oh, we have these overlays to last weekend. Make sure you come this weekend cause there’ll be a lot of value on the tables because we just going back to this Sunday Million, presuming that it’s going to be running the same this Sunday. I haven’t heard anything different. What’s interesting is during scoop they had some special edition Sunday Millions. One returned to the $215 buying level and that did extremely well. $1.3 million prize for smash the guarantee. Whether that’s just because it was during SCOOP anyway or whether that kind of highlights an underlying demand for it to return back to that buying level, I don’t know because the week after that they had a 537 like a four time size and exceeded $1.5 million.

Mike: Yes. I don’t know. I still struggled to think that players would want $200 buy in as opposed to $100 buy in. I can understand that they would want that. I guess I have a hard time thinking that that they will just not play it because of that price.

Nick: The thing is that 215, you only need more than half the number of people who play the 109. That’s what we’re looking at. Obviously, when they did the 215 and a had a $1.3 million price, that’s still less people that overlaid in the one Sunday. It’s just they were only paying half as much.

Mike: If you have a potential player pool that is X amount and are very high percentage of those players are willing to pay the 200 price point, then it makes sense. Why it would succeed at the higher price point where it wouldn’t at the lower price point.

Nick: That’s the question of whether they return back to 215. I’m not quite sure where else they can go. They’ve run a knockout special one time. They also did very well but I don’t know. I was going to say I can’t imagine that they’re going to make it knockout permanently. I suppose nothing’s off the table. Knockouts do just seem to do extremely well. They do great for the operator as well because they’re raking all the bounties. Maybe we’ll see that. Maybe 30 days or something. Maybe they returned the 215 over the summer but I wouldn’t expect that they’ll do something. I can’t see them just sucking this up like, week over week.

Mike: What’s the situation with three entries in the Sunday Million? Is it limited to one or is it unlimited?

Nick: I don’t know. I’m going to say it’s limited to one [crosstalk]

Mike: I’m actually looking at the image that we have with the Poker Industry PRO. I could see in the lobby that it says one re-entry available.

Nick: Well, there you go. That’s one easy way to [crosstalk]

Mike: That’s another potential path board is allowing multiple re-entries.

Nick: The saving grace option is to say, the players have spoken is going back to 215 and turn it into a positive event. I think it’s kind of a shame. I know a lot of people. Other podcast lamented the change from the 215 to the 109. I personally think it’s just a much. It’s a price point that I just feel so many more people feel like they could pull the trigger on without worrying about it too much if they wanted it as Sunday entertainment and get good few hours of entertainment for 100 bucks. 200 bucks is a lot of money for a lot of people.

Mike: Do you think they could lower it and be successful?

Nick: It’s interesting that they haven’t tried that once. From all these special editions that they haven’t tried it. Obviously, it’s a huge risk because that’s just now you need 20,000 people. That’s just a lot of people to be playing on a Sunday but you could drop it and then and have unlimited re-entries. Drop it and do a bounty. Maybe we’ll see that.

Mike: It sure sounds like it would be a premier marketing opportunity?

Nick: Yes absolutely [crosstalk]

Mike: To guarantee a million dollars and through maybe a $50 buying tag on that that would be.

Nick: I’ll play it. There you go . I’ll fire a couple of bullets.


Mike: All right. It’s outdoor time again. Seems to be probably the most freeform part of the podcast.

Nick: As if it weren’t freeform enough. We’re just generally thinking just so rigid to the structure of this podcast . What do you have? What quick witticism or insight do you have for us for the outro tonight, Mike?

Mike: I have nothing, totally unprepared. I guess I would ask you. Here’s a question. Being that we did a special edition of the podcast that we did that interview with David Sklansky. I’m going to throw it over to you and ask you who would you like to see us interview next?

Nick: Wow. The big question is what can we do different to other people don’t do? I think the David Sklansky thing was a great opportunity, because this is a new book. We knew that he wasn’t really working with anyone else to do a podcast, the easy questions and the discussion that you had wasn’t anywhere else. I found that very interesting. I think just the history of the book, I think, it’s just a really interesting topic. We could interview Phil Galfond but he is not shy about doing interviews with anyone and the guy speaks his mind. It would come down do we have the questions to put to him that would make an entertaining listen.

Mike: He would be high on my list. I think the thing with Phil is, though he has been quite generous with his time and gone on other podcasts and has his own blog, I think some of the questions that we might ask might be a bit different than things that he’s been exposed to on other podcasts. I think the time has also changed as well so the topics might be a bit different.

Nick: Question for you then. If we had Rob Yong on the podcast, would your questions be different to the questions that Jeff Gross has?

Mike: Absolutely. Yes, absolutely. Wow. Let’s give Rob Yong on the pod-

Nick: There it is.

Mike: -on the pod. That’s a good idea. They’d be a little bit different. All right. Well, that’s a wrap for us. Thanks everyone for tuning in. As always, please feel free to provide feedback at pokerfuse on Twitter, SpookyBugs on Twitter, @pokerprojones Twitter, email us. However you can get in touch with us, please feel free to do so. We’re always looking for feedback. We will see you again next week.